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Hardwood Floor Help: How to Clean & Refinish

modern kitchen with clean hardwood flooring

Hardwood flooring is a prized possession in any house. Gleaming beauties, they steal the spotlight, attracting the eyes of new homebuyers and the glances of repeat visitors. Strong, durable, and gorgeous, hardwood floors increase property values and do so much for you and your home, but it’s important to show them a little love. To make sure they can continue to shine brightly and hold up for years and years to come, follow our guide and discover how to clean hardwood floors and how to refinish hardwood floors.  

How to Clean Hardwood Floors

With proper care, your hardwood floors will be intact and look good for decades to come. That care starts with detailed and regular cleaning. A lot of what you should do is similar to any other space in your home, but there are a few tips that are a bit more specific to hardwoods. Follow these guidelines and tips for how to clean hardwood floors:

1. Follow a cleaning schedule.

Hardwood flooring demands a special maintenance schedule, but it’s worth it to have such stunning floors day in and out. Sweep and dust your floors with a soft-bristled broom or dust mop daily, run the vacuum on the hard-floor setting weekly, use a dedicated hardwood cleaner with a microfiber mop once per month, and polish quarterly to even out appearances.

2. Wipe spills ASAP.

It can be tempting to ignore a wayward ice cube or half-heartedly wipe up a spill because they’re hardwoods—they can take anything. Not so! This habit can quickly lead to damage and discoloration. Clean messes immediately with a dry or slightly damp cloth to prevent an accidental spill from becoming an unsightly stain.

woman cleaning hardwood flooring with microfiber mop

3. Keep floors dry.

Water and wood don’t get along. Humidity, tracked-in rainwater, and steam or wet mops can cause your wood to swell, shrink, or split. To preserve hardwood, keep your home temperature between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit, say “no” to wet shoes and socks, and ban soaking buckets and dripping mops.

4. Be proactive about scratches.

Furniture is one of the biggest culprits of scratched floors, and as anyone who’s had to buff out scratches in their hardwood will tell you, they aren’t an easy fix. Use furniture pads on the legs of chairs, sofas, tables, and other items, and lay down rugs. Long pet nails and high heels can also scratch hardwood, so stay on top of your furry friend’s nail trimmings and leave your pumps at the door.

If you don’t want to clean your hardwood floors yourself, there are plenty of professional options to get the job done. Just search “hardwood floor cleaning near me” in your favorite search engine. The companies know how to deep clean hardwood floors (and usually carpets, too!), with pricing dependent on the amount of space you need to have spruced up. If you want to go the extra mile and make sure your floors impress, pro cleaning is the way to go.

If you want to keep going after cleaning your hardwood floors, here’s how to clean your refrigerator like a pro.

person refinishing hardwood flooring

How to Refinish Hardwood Floors

The work of refinishing hardwood floors can be done DIY-style with the right homeowner tools and education, but it’s best to consult a professional if you’re a first-timer. Here’s a quick overview of how to refinish hardwood floors:

  • Prep your space. Remove all furniture, rugs, décor, and other items from your hardwood floors.
  • Fix it up. Repair scratches and replace damaged boards. 
  • Clean. Give your hardwood floors a good cleaning.
  • Sand it down. Rent or purchase a dedicated hardwood floor sander and sand it down until smooth. Don’t forget to remove any dust left behind. 
  • Apply the stain. Evenly apply the stain with a brush or rag, following the manufacturer's instructions for best results. 
  • Finish it off. Once the stain is dry, apply your finish in thin, even coats. Tackle small areas at a time and start in the farthest corner of the room. 

After the finish dries and cures, you’ll be rewarded with perfectly polished hardwood floors!

When to Refinish Hardwood Floors

Unfortunately, floor finishes—the layers of varnish or polish that make your hardwood glossy—will inevitably wear thin. Exactly when you should apply a new coat of finish will depend on your lifestyle and foot traffic; however, it’s suggested to do so every three to five years or when your floors look like they could use more than just a mop to return to their former glory.

Oftentimes, your floors will let you know exactly when help is needed. Be on the lookout for things like deep scratches, graying, and fading boards during the three-to-five-year period.

Cost to Refinish Hardwood Floors

Typically, that professional service will be in the price range of $2 to $7 per square foot of flooring, but it’ll be well worth it to have your floors keep their original look and avoid any missteps you could make trying to get the job done yourself.

Some projects you can totally DIY—and others you should leave to the experts. Check out when to DIY vs. when to hire a pro.

modern kitchen with hardwood floors

What to Do After Your Hardwood Flooring Refresh

Hardwood floors are just one of many favorite features in a home for buyers, homeowners, and visitors alike. Kitchen countertops can be just as attractive, with their varying styles and ability to anchor your cooking and serving space. To get the most out of them, you'll need to consider a few key factors prior to your purchase. In our guide, “The Top 5 Considerations When Choosing Kitchen Countertops,” you’ll learn how to pick the best kitchen countertops for your lifestyle.